A crisis was unfolding, late one night, as I switched on the bathroom light. Making the slow but steady climb up the moulded back-splash of the bathroom sink was an earwig. Now, the presence of an earwig in the bathroom is only slightly unusual. Here in Lae, “wildlife” in the bathroom (and everywhere else in the house) is the undefeatable ‘norm’. My house isn’t much different from a camp cabin. It has gaps and floor-to-ceiling screens, and it is far from bug proof. If they aren’t coming through holes, then they are following the plumbing or even coming through the screens (yes, some little, bitey, bright green “tree hoppers” are that small!). I’ve counted up to six different kinds of ants in the house at one time and one of them is carnivorous! And my roommate, Miring, was brushing her teeth one day and a 4-inch-long centipede came up the pipe and out of the drain! I could go on telling you about random insect encounters for hours, but that’s getting off topic. Time to go back to the unfolding crisis instead.
I watched the traveller for a short time, without much interest, before realizing it was heading straight for a spider perched on top of the back-splash. A very tiny spider. It was not much larger than the head of a pin and the earwig was easily 20 times its size, likely more. I stood transfixed and the realization that I could relate to the spider hit me between the eyes. Ever feel like life is bearing down on you and you can’t get away? I’ve felt that a lot over the past three years – the feeling of being on the point of being swallowed. For me it’s been death, and more death; frequent Malaria; overwhelming work pressure; fractured relationships; the frequent feeling that I’m a commodity and not a person with needs and feelings; mourning with dear friends experiencing a paralyzing situation; seeing spiritually immature decisions being made by Christians who should know better, etc. etc. And then Covid-19.
Covid has taken everything and turned it upside-down for all of us, wherever we are on Earth. Being here, during this pandemic, has given me the possibly unique perspective of being envious of those of you who have been in frequent lock downs! With so few vaccinated in Papua New Guinea (less than 4% as I write this!) and so much disobedience, life has become frightening. Even a short shopping trip guarantees contact with huge crowds and very few wearing masks. P.N.G. was slow in joining the pandemic, but in recent months Delta has taken hold and numbers continue to climb. And this week, the thought that the new Omicron variant could further delay my already delayed furlough, has nearly tripped me over the edge. I have felt like I am that tiny little spider, and that my “earwig” is the size of a transport truck.
As all these realizations ran through my head, the earwig continued to climb. It was approaching the end of its journey and I stood wondering how to help the spider, but before I could come to a decision, the earwig reached the top. What happened next left me slack-jawed and awestruck. The spider, recognizing its adversary and the danger it was in, didn’t hesitate. It didn’t turn-tail and run (do spiders have tails?) but it took a mighty leap right at the earwig’s face. I watched as the earwig, in its total surprise, lost its grip and tumbled back into the sink. By then I was cheering and applauding the spider while reassessing my life.
In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul, writing of his struggles, said, ‘For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6-9).
God gave the little spider the ability to jump (and a lot of bravery!), but for us who have obeyed Him, He has given us His light and His Spirit. We are frail, but with God’s strength, and with Him living in us, we are able to weather everything that life throws at us.
A few verses later Paul continued, “Therefore, do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-18).
The little spider made me realize that my focus has become skewed over the past few years. I pray while looking at the problems and sorrows and pressures and frustrations. Too many times I rely on my own strength, not His. My eyes have been fixed on what is temporary, not what is eternal. Instead of taking a mighty leap in the face of Satan whenever he pops up at eye level, I’ve been more prone to turn tail and run, unlike the spider. I’ve been feeling overcome, but thanks to the bathroom ‘wildlife’, I now remember that I’m not.
Lae, Papua New Guinea